Last night was one of those nights. A beautiful Fall day and we were headed to a small town to play in the second round of the MN State Sectionals against a school we usually play every year. They are big public school with a great soccer program. Historically we play them every year at the beginning of the season and it's always possible that we'll meet again in the post season.
We've had a fantastic year and our guys have done very well. We finished second in our conference and lost by one goal in the conference championship, in the second overtime. On Tuesday when the state playoffs began, we knocked off another big, public school with a 3-2 win and we came to this school ready to do it again.
It was a tough game and believe me, we didn't just roll over like they may have expected us to. They got a great game from us and it was extremely close and competitive from the first whistle to the last. This isn't the first time or even the second time I've been to this school, on their home turf, cheering for our boys to upset them. We've been here a lot and been humbled a lot. As I stood from the outer edges of the stadium, close the playground where my own kiddos were playing, I kept my eyes on the game and inserted my voice of support from the sidelines. Most people who know me in my adult years, don't know the competitive juices that pulse through my veins. I am not the coaches wife who just watches distantly and says things like, "Oh well, at least they tried their best!" No, I'm on those sidelines, doing everything I can to restrain my tongue and wishing I could will those boys to a win for the sake of our school and my coaching husband. I like to win.
We knew what to expect coming here, it would be physical and our guys would need just as much strength to play clean as they would to play hard and sure enough, we got what we expected. There were many times I watched intently, hoping our guys would walk away or choose not to retaliate, and thankfully they did. They played clean and they played hard. Held their heads up when the other team slipped a goal in and didn't lose their minds when we should have gotten a penalty kick and didn't. I don't intend to paint the other team as the bad guys and our team as saints or insist that the refs blew a huge call and cost us the game. This team and every other one, is not an enemy, they are simply our opponents and as proud as I am of our own team, we are still human too. We don't play every game perfectly and sometimes the refs really irritate us. Last night I stood very proud of our guys and the integrity they showed, just as I have all season.
But at the same time, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I really, really, really longed to beat this team. I've had enough losing here and a win would be so very satisfying. In fact, as I stood in the playground area, away from anyone who could hear me, I had a conversation with the Lord that went something like this: "Ok Lord, I am not bargaining with you because you do not work that way and I won't cheapen our relationship to that. You owe us nothing and have given us everything in Jesus. This is high school soccer and in the grand scheme of life, it's only a game. But if I could be so bold as to ask you for a victory here tonight, then I am doing it. Could we please upset this team and walk out of here with a win???"
And then a funny thing happened.
The game was close, extremely close. I noticed a Mom near me, with a little one strapped in a carrier, also intently watching the game. I asked her if she had a player on the field she was watching (knowing she was too young to have a son out there) and she said, no she was actually the coaches wife. Well, does the Lord have a sense of humor or what?? Of course I said, me too! I introduced myself and we had a great chat about soccer, being the coaches wife, and this part of the season when we love for our guys to get a win but with little kids at home, frankly we're ready for the Daddies to be more available too! It was sweet and definitely from the Lord. As she walked away to quiet her little baby, I was struck by the silliness of the emotion I can have toward this game sometimes. The students we play, the coaches we face...they are people too. With stories and hearts and lives, similar to ours. It's so easy to think of them as enemies in order to motivate us toward a victory, but the truth of the matter is that soccer isn't everything and ultimately the Lord has much more in mind for us than wins and losses on the field.
Do we still want those wins? Of course. But I have watched a much greater story unfold this season and it humbles me to think about it. Last night we lost, 2-0. They got two goals in, although our keeper had a fabulous game and blocked many more attempts. We had some great shots on goal ourselves and just didn't connect, but we played hard. And well. I could have hung my head because ultimately we still came up short and honestly, I kind of wanted too. But as He does, the Lord showed me that this season has been full of wins, many we may never have known about.
As is customary, we walked through that post-game line, extending the classic hand-shakes, "good game" lines, etc. They huddled up to celebrate and we huddled up to lick our wounds, but then things got interesting.
We began walking back towards them, something we've done after every game this year, and they started looking over wondering what in the world we were doing?
One of our Senior captains approached their coach and asked if we could pray with anyone who would like to. Their coach agreed and we watched the same scene unfold that we have all year.
As our guys came forward to take a knee, so did they.
I don't know what is said in those circles and I don't know who prays. This isn't a post to elevate my husband, his leadership or even his team. This is simply one of those moments in life when you stop and realize that God is actually doing a holy work right in front of your eyes.
A work not only in the other team, but in our team too. It struck me, to be beaten in a tough game, on a night when we could have made school history, is not an easy pill to swallow. Not for adults who can keep things in perspective better and certainly not for high school boys with testosterone pulsing through their bodies. For our guys to do this game after game, and especially after this game, is a living-breathing example of the Lord working in their hearts too. It takes great courage to stand out. It takes deep humility to stand knee to knee with your opponent, arms around them even and pray together. I love those boys out there on our team, but they aren't my sons and I don't know each of them well. However, as a Mom and a former teenager myself, I think I could safely assume that for each of them this isn't a natural thing. They are being impacted by one another and their coaches in this post game decision too. And actually, as it turns out, the Lord is after a win in their own hearts, just as He is in the hearts of their opponents. It would be easy to pat ourselves on the back and think, aren't we something?? Isn't it great that we would reach out and pray with another team?? But we would remiss to not look inwardly ourselves and to think, perhaps the Lord is doing something in us too. In our coaches. In our players. In our fans. In our families and in our school.
Maybe even more than them, I need to choose the same humbling that those teenage boys do.
The story of last night could simply have read, Waconia beats SW Christian 2-0 to advance in the Sectional round of tournament play. That is what happened.
But as that prayer circle broke up, the real win began. I watched those two teams who had simply shaken hands earlier, embrace and linger a little and talk. It was heartwarming and made that loss a little sweeter.
But then we woke up today and Travis started getting texts and emails. Apparently there was some talk on twitter last night about the game. Not only our game, but the girls game too. Our Varsity girls also lost 2-0 against a powerhouse public school, and guess what? After the game ended, they invited the other team to pray with them as well. And here are some of the reactions from those two games...
For privacy and permission issues, I blurred out every name and face, but here is what was posted:
One of my personal favorites! ha!
And from the girls' game...
I'm going to go ahead and say that the Lord did indeed give us a win last night. He gave us win after win all year, actually. And again, not just in the hearts of the other team and fans too. He's been working in all of us, using something as simple and yet profound, as circling up after a soccer game for prayer.
HE was exalted last night, as HE rightly should have been. Our God is alive and active and through this team and in this team, He's making a difference.
I'm a proud coach's wife and I now know another coach's wife I can pray for as her husband works another weekend, chasing another win.
What a year this has been. What an amazing God who reached down to demonstrate His love for us, through the death and resurrection of His Son, and who keeps reaching down to pursue every heart. So much more than soccer titles at stake here...
"Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." Philippians 2:14-15
It's been a great season and these boys have made my husband very proud. He is graduating some seniors whom he will miss dearly, but I believe they are leaving with an accomplished season and quite a few life lessons to take with them. Way to go, SWCH Stars! It's been a privilege to cheer you on this year...